Monday, July 11, 2011

PHil 3 and 4

You can't steer a car by the light emanating from the brakes or even from the the tail lights. You can't go forward if you spend all your time looking in the rear view mirror.
      We all know that.  However, if you live very long, you may be tempted to live in the light of the past. I certainly have been and still am from time to time.
      Why did I  do such and such?
      What if I had done such and such instead?
      Is the backlash from  _________  ever going to die down?
      Why didn't I do what so and so did, back when I was younger and had the chance?
      Philippians has been called the mental health book of the Bible with good reason.
      This morning as I was reading, these are some of the commands/examples that I saw:
            *Rejoice in the Lord.  Somehow - don't know how - this protects us.  (3:1)
            *Serve in the power of the Spirit of God. (3:3)
            *Boast in Christ Jesus (3:3)
            *Do not put confidence in the flesh (3:3)
            *Forget what is behind, what is past. (3:13)
            *Move forward to what is ahead. (3:13)
            *Set your goal - to go after the highest prize, the one gain that is better than having
                - a famous, well-respected family going back for generations
                - a position as an ardent patriot and national leader
                - a prestigious academic career  (having more degrees than a thermometer as a friend used to say)
                - a stellar record as a passionate activist
                - an impeccable, unsullied reputation  (and who wants to give up their reputation if it's impeccable?)
            Give up all of that?  Why?  Not to be poorer but instead, to be richer...
            In order to  know Him, experience His power,enter into the fellowship (circle) of His suffering, and eventually to be conformed to His death as well as  raised with Him to dwell in a world without end.

           Basically, in Paul's society, he had it all. In our day, it would be as if he came from the top echelon of our society, graduated from Harvard,  became a noteworthy expert and a sought-after leader, and proved by his zeal that he was fearless as well as ruthless in protecting the things his society valued. People looked up to him.
           And then God felled him.
           Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are persecuting Me?"
           "Who are you, Lord..."
           "I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting..."
                                      Acts. 9:3-6
           This brilliant leader went out with zeal and then, as he wrote in Acts 21:22, was felled to the ground by a light... yes, a light. Not an army.  Not a sword.  By a light. One of the greatest scholars of his day, he suddenly couldn't see. Anything.  There he was, on his knees, probably terrified, maybe scrabbling around in the dirt, trying to find solid ground in more ways than one.  This is what he wrote: "I was led by the hand of those who were with me."
          Little children and older adults are led by the hand.  The blind, the sick, and the weak are led by the hand.  How could this be happening to him - someone at the pinnacle of society?
         A better question would be - how did this experience affect him?
         He gave up everything. He turned his back on his family heritage, he gave up his reputation, he became a member of a low-life, despised sect, one of the ones that he himself had been hunting before God felled  him with a light.
       He could have easily wasted hours upon hours regretting his pride, his zeal which led to the arrest of many people that he now knew were innocent and he certainly could have dwelt on the souls who died because of his passion.  He could have cringed time and again as he dwelt on the fact that God had to literally knock him  to his knees in front of his followers to get his attention.
     But apparently, when he was blinded, he saw something - or someone - for the first time.  And like the  Wise Men following a brilliant light in the sky, he kept his focus on this unbelievable treasure - this astounding being - this One whom he considered more desirable than anything else that he had ever owned or ever attained and more precious thanany other person   he had ever known.  E. Stanley Jones once said that he found the pearl of great price and ever since, he had been hugging himself because he had the good sense to sell all that he had in order to buy the field where it was hidden. I think Paul would agree.
     His advice?
     Rejoice in the Lord.  
    Go after Him with all your being.
    Forget what is past...
    Move forward.
    In Phil 4, he elaborates on how to do that:
    Again, he writes:
   Rejoice in the Lord  (4:4).  (Either Paul stuttered when he wrote or this was very important to his Christian walk...)
   Don't worry about anything (4:6)
   Pray about everything  (4:6)
   And think on these things:
            what is true
            what is honorable
            what is just
            what is pure
            what is lovely
            what is commendable
            what is morally excellent
             what is worthy of praise.
In other words, focus on  the Light, not on the past...

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